The Canadian Law Group would like to keep our business clients working and investing in the cannabis industry informed of potential difficulties with entering the United States.
A press release issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency in late September reminded travelers that it would be business as usual at US border crossings despite the Federal legalization of Cannabis in Canada, and the legalization of Cannabis at the state level in 10 states. The press release stated that CBP officers are thoroughly trained on admissibility factors and in particular stated: "A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S. However, if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible."
This ominous statement foreshadowed the events of the week of November 14 when numerous Canadians traveling to a prominent cannabis conference, the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada were detained for hours. According to the Financial Post, one Canadian cannabis investor, who elected to remain anonymous, received a lifetime U.S. entry ban for admitting his intention to attend the conference and to tour a new cannabis facility.
If you are issued a lifetime entry ban to the United States, you must apply for a temporary waiver that allows you to enter the U.S. for up to five years. However, this process often takes several months and is far from a guaranteed 'fix,' given waivers are issued at the discretion of the CBP. At least 12 Canadian conference goers were detained for hours by the U.S. CBP en route to the conference at the US pre-clearance zone at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. Many were held up in secondary screening, while some ended up missing their flights because of the delays.
Travelers are finding themselves in a dilemma. Lying to the U.S. CBP when asked a question could result in a lifetime ban due to misrepresentation or fraud. However, admitting to working in the cannabis industry could lead to delays at best or a more heavy-handed punishment.
Admitting to the recreational use of marijuana at the border before legalization occurred in Canada on October 18, 2018, remains another grey area, along with amnesty for prior pot convictions. More guidance is needed from the U.S. CBP on their handling of these issues to provide some certainty for Canadians traveling to the United States. For advice or guidance as to how to cross the border in the new era of cannabis legalization in Canada, contact one of our cross-border lawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.